It’s been almost two years since this Melbourne mum and her 10-month-old son Jax were involved in a horrific car accident. Thankfully, his rearward-facing car seat absolutely and without question saved this precious little boy’s life that day. So if you’ve been thinking about turning your little one’s car seat around to forward-facing, read this first.

Don’t be in a rush to turn the car seat!

Parents are often in a rush to turn their baby or toddler’s car seat to forward-facing at six months because they’re then they’re legally allowed to. And this is for all sorts of reasons – it’s one of the first ‘milestones’, it’s easier to see them from the driver’s seat, they like to look out the windows or they fuss less because they can see more. But is it safe to turn these pint-sized passengers around so early? Absolutely not.

extended rearward-facing car seat
If 10-month-old Jax had been forward-facing, he likely wouldn’t have survived this accident. Source: Zoe ten Broek

A rearward-facing car seat literally saved Jax’s life

In 2020, Melbourne mum Zoe was involved in a car accident she’ll never forget.

With her baby safely buckled in a rearward-facing car seat in the backseat, her car was hit by another car travelling 100 km/hr. There was absolutely no question that because Jax was secured correctly in his rearward-facing car seat, he survivced the accident that day. Jax suffered significant head trauma and spent a harrowing month in hospital. Zoe relayed the day’s events in this Instagram post:

“I put Jax in his seat, did a pinch test on his straps, and then started to make my way to my parents’ house just like I have done so many times in the past. Though this time we never made it there.

Instead, the next thing I remember was men putting me in an ambulance and telling me that I had been in an accident. Jax was nowhere to be seen, and all they told me was that he was airlifted to the Royal children’s hospital in Melbourne. After having spent the night in the hospital myself, I finally got to go see him. Nothing could have prepared me for seeing my little man in that massive bed with so many tubes and wires everywhere.

He had a fractured skull, a brain bleed, high pressures in the brain, and a torn ligament in his neck. It was an awful lot to process, I had no memory of what happened and suddenly I could lose my precious boy. It was touch and go for a while, but four surgeries, four weeks in hospital, and many tears later I was thankfully lucky enough to be able to take my boy home without any permanent issues.

Not a day goes by where I don’t think about what life would be like if we weren’t so lucky. If I hadn’t known to keep him rearward facing, he definitely wouldn’t be here the doctors have told me.”

These photos will hurt any mum’s heart, but we must remember Jax’s rearward-facing seat position SAVED him. If it weren’t for that, he would never have survived the impact.

extended rearward-facing car seat
Jax’s car seat position protected him when he needed it. Source: Zoe ten Broek
extended rearward-facing car seat
The bravest little boy, Jax underwent four surgeries in one month following the car accident. Source: Zoe ten Broek

Car seat awareness is SO, so important

Zoe has turned what was no doubt a traumatic time in their family life into an awareness message for others. And gosh, I’m so glad she is. It’s super important for ANYONE getting around with young passengers in a car seat in their car to understand car seat safety. Not just mum and dad, but grandparents, friends and caregivers who pick up your littlies from time to time too.

On the second anniversaray of that dark day, Zoe posted on Instagram post yesterday her plea to build awareness to fellow parents around the importance of extended rear-facing (ERF):

“It’s been nearly two years since the accident so I thought it was time we made another awareness post. You never know what will happen when you step into the car today.

There are two kinds of 0-4 seats, one with 2 height markers and one with 3. The seat with 3 markers is extended rearward facing (ERF) and you’ll be able to use this seat for the longest amount of time RF. Legally (sadly) you must turn at 4 years old or whenever the must turn marker is reached. If your child hasn’t reached the must turn marker in an ERF seat and is under the age of 4, it is absolutely safest to keep them RF, this is not an opinion, this is a fact.

Seat belts when RF should be coming from just above the shoulders and be tight enough to pass the pinch test and have no twists. With infants pay careful attention to how the seat belt is sitting around the hip. Gently stretch the leg and pull tight to ensure the straps are tight. The tether strap should be tightened but can have some slack. If the tether is too tight you risk it lifting the seat of the base.

Most car seat brands will have a visible rebound bar, ensure this is always clicked up into position. No after-market products are to be used in the car seat (head pillows, strap covers, play tables). Be mindful of what you give your child in the seat. If you can’t throw it at your child without it hurting them, then they shouldn’t be holding it whilst driving. Screens should be secured, as everything will become a projectile in an accident.

With winter just around the corner be mindful of jackets. See for yourself, secure your child with a jacket and take them out without adjusting the straps then put them back in without the jacket and see whether or not it still passes the pinch test.

Every day I’m thankful that I still get to create more memories with my little man. Every day I’m thankful that I knew how to keep Jax safe in the car before we got into that awful car accident. Every day I’m thankful that I received praise from doctors and first responders for rearward facing instead of them having to tell me that my 10-month-old did not survive. Normalise extended rearward facing.”

extended rearward-facing car seat
Extended rearward-facing ensured Jax is still here today.  Source: Zoe ten Broek

Two years on, Jax is like any other little boy, happy as a lark playing, living life and giving his mum Zoe some pretty epic cuddles, just as he should be. AMAZING!

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Zoe and Jax are sharing their story to spread awareness about extended rearward-facing. Source: Zoe ten Broek

Rear for a year – extended rearward facing is the safest option

“Rear for a year” is an awesome saying to remember and live by – even beyond a year if your one-year-old is a slow-grower or super petite! There’s NO reason to turn them early at six months old, especially if it puts their safety at risk, there really isn’t. Babies and young children have big heads and weak necks, they need maximum support and protection from their rearward-facing car seat in the event of an accident.

Car seat manufacturer Britax reiterate Zoe’s advice, also saying that height is a far better indicator than age when it comes to when your child should switch from rearward facing to forward-facing or move up to the next seat. So don’t be in a rush!

extended rearward-facing car seat
The top shoulder markers (not age) decide when to switch out of rearward facing position. Source: Zoe ten Broek

Please note that the laws on car seats can differ slightly between states. To find out specific laws on child restraints in your area, head to your local roads and authority website.

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South Australian mum and self proclaimed foodie, Lexi can most days be found in the kitchen, apron tied firm and armed with a whisk or wooden spoon!

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